Holiday Train Rides Around the Bay Area - 510 Families
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Holiday Train Rides Around the Bay Area

‘Tis the season to book Christmas train rides (yeah, before Halloween!). After last year, when they were nearly all canceled, I’m thrilled to say the holiday trains are chugging along again. Here is the update on a few holiday train rides for families who like to plan ahead.

The holiday season is only beginning so we hope to add a few for those who are happier to keep it low-key and local as details are announced.

Bay Area Christmas Trains in 2022

Niles Canyon Train of Lights (Niles)

Tickets are on sale Saturday, October 1, 2022, at 10 am and typically sell out within a week.

Niles Canyon Holiday train

The Train of Lights can be picked up at Niles Canyon (Fremont) or at Sunol, providing an hour-long round trip ride, filled with music and lights. The train cars are vintage and open-air, so bundle up! Read more about the Train of Lights experience from an East Bay mom >
When: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Nov. 18 through Dec. 28 except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day plus two additional Mondays.
Price: $35 for coach seats, everyone ages 3 and up. Other options for nicer carriages or renting out the caboose for a group cost extra.
Locations: Niles Station: 37029 Mission Blvd. Fremont, CA | Sunol Station 6 Kilkare Road, Sunol, CA

Polar Express at California Railroad Museum, Sacramento

Tickets on sale to the public on September 28, 2022. Presale tickets to members available August 31.

Polar Express Old Sacramento Santa
Polar Express Old Sacramento includes a visit with Santa Claus aboard the train! (Photo: Karen Merzenich)

Enjoy hot chocolate and yummy cookies as you ride along with many of the story’s characters such as the Train Conductor, the Dancing Waiters, and a ghostly Hobo. Once you reach the North Pole, the jolly old elf — Santa himself — will come on board to give each passenger a silver sleigh bell, the “first gift of Christmas”. The ride is about 60 minutes, but you may board early per your ticketed time. Our contributor Karen reviewed the Sacramento Christmas Train here >>
When: Wed. to Sun. from Nov. 25 to Dec. 21 plus Tues., Dec. 20, with multiple times each day: 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm, and 8 pm.
Price: Under 2, Free; Coach: $60 per person; First Class: $80 per person.
Location: Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station, 930 Front St, Sacramento
Pro-tip: get on the mailing list to have access to early purchase tickets before August 31, 2022.

Magical Christmas Train, West Sacramento

Tickets on sale as of September, 2022.

Magical Christmas Train with Santa
Magical Christmas Train with Santa Claus | Photo: Sacramento River Train via Facebook

Yippee! While not exactly in the Bay Area, this is a special one-hour visit with the big man, Santa Claus, and his trusty elves on a railroad in a train car. You’ll get some sweet treats and have a pretty good time. Read all about the Magical Christmas Train.

When: The one-hour Magical Christmas Train is offered multiple times each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday beginning on Nov. 25 through Dec. 17 and then Monday, through Friday of Christmas week. Plan to arrive 30 minutes early.
Price: Adults 13+: $55 | Kids age 3 to 12: $45 | Kids 2 and under: $10
Location: 18095 County Road 117, West Sacramento, CA

Chanukah Train, Santa Cruz

Tickets are not yet on sale.

Roaring Camp Chanukah Train
Santa Cruz Chanukah Train | photo: Roaring Camp Facebook

Share the light of Hanukkah aboard Roaring Camp Railroad’s Chanukah Train! Gather at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for the lighting of the menorah at 6:15 pm, and then set off on a one-hour train ride on Roaring Camp’s vintage excursion cars adorned with thousands of shining lights and Chanukah decorations. Share traditions and ride the train through the streets of Santa Cruz listening to stories, playing dreidel, and enjoying kosher refreshments provided by Chabad by the Sea.
When: December 26 @ 5:15 pm or 6:45 pm with a menorah lighting between rides.
Price: TBD, last year it was $27 child (age 2 to 12); $31 adult over 13.
Website for details and booking >

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train, Santa Cruz

Tickets are on sale now.

The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train
The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train | Photo: Roaring Camp Railroad via Facebook

Each ticket includes a one-hour train ride through the streets of Santa Cruz; music; hot cider; holiday sing-along, live music, and Santa Claus in Santa Cruz (not sure if it will include arcade tokens like in previous years). There will be a North Pole mailbox just outside of the entrance to Neptune’s Kingdom.
When: Nov. 25-26, Dec. 3-4, 12-13, 17-23 with three evening departure times
Price: Standard canopy cars are about $33 child (age 2 to 12); $45 adult over 13
See website for details >

Holiday Tree Walk at Roaring Camp, Felton

Tickets are not yet on sale.

Santa Claus at Bear Mountain
Santa Claus at Bear Mountain, bring a new unwrapped toy | Photo: Roaring Camp Railroad

Get in the holiday spirit by bringing family and friends to ride Roaring Camp’s daytime steam train to Bear Mountain. At the summit, guests may sip hot cocoa and greet Santa Claus — and view a tree-lined walk of decorated holiday trees. The train ride is an hour and the experience includes an additional 15 minutes of activities.
When: Nov. 25-27, Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 with multiple daytime departures
Price: I’m guessing standard canopy cars are about $33 child (age 2 to 12); $45 adult over 13
See website for details >

More Bay Area Christmas Train Activities

If you and your children are dying to ride the rails right now, the Roaring Camp Railroad, the Tilden Park Steam Trains, and the Niles Canyon Railway are hosting autumnal train rides (wear a festive red hat or pajamas, who’s gonna stop you?). We also have a train lovers’ guide to the East Bay Area.

🚂 Watch this space for more Holiday Train Rides in the Bay Area

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1 thought on “Holiday Train Rides Around the Bay Area”

  1. Willits Skunk Train November 26 through December 31 – Passengers are invited to sport a cozy sweater or holiday pajamas as they board the train for the Mr Skunk and the Giant Christmas Tree adventure at the historic depot in Willits. The 16-mile roundtrip rail journey into the redwood forest is brimming with cheer as guests enjoy reindeer games, Christmas carols and seasonal treats (including adult beverages for mom and dad). The destination is Santa Mr. Skunk’s Wonderful Workshop, which consists of a giant redwood tree bedecked in Christmas splendor. On return to the Willits train depot, guests are invited to climb aboard a historic ‘Skunk’ motorcar for a special photo opportunity with Mr. Skunk himself. Trips average a duration of two hours. Tickets are $59.95; and other prices apply for dogs and VIP passes. Trains leave from downtown Willits located just off Highway 101. For tickets, visit skunktrain.com or call (707) 964-6371 for more information.

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